THE WILD WEST The first Vollans family touring holiday sees JJ head to Ireland's west coast – the ideal place to test his ‘ultimate driving machine’
JJ takes his #BMW-528i-E39
to Ireland and then tries to sell it
OUR DRIVES Tales of running modern classics in the real world
I’ve been visiting the Republic of Ireland sinceI wasa kid. My mum’s family is from Leitrim on the west coast and we used to spend many a family holiday back in the ‘old country’. My parents moved there permanently about ten years ago when they retired, so I’ve had even more opportunity to visit since. A few times a year we jump on a plane at Stansted and fly to the wild and windy, bog-surrounded destination of Knock airport in county Mayo. It was built after a local saw a vision of the Virgin Mary, who told him to build a shrine. Honest– that is genuinely the reason.
Since becoming a father back in April, I’ve noticed that any trip now involves a lot more luggage (try getting a travel cot through hand luggage!). So when I had a week's holiday recently, we decided to forego the stress of the departure lounge and go on a full-on touring holiday. Two of my cars – the Mercedes 190E 2.6 W201 and the BMW 528i – were ideal for this long- haul journey, providing the right mix of high-speed motorway comfort and tight handling on the much slower, twistier roads on the other side of the Irish Sea. On this occasion, the BMW got the nod.
I love the rugged beauty of the Atlantic coast. Looking out to sea, knowing that the next landmass is America – 3080 miles away – is humbling. The mountains rise straight out of the sea, the lochs are lined with spruce forests and every village or town is full of welcoming pubs with roaring fires, bottomless Guinness, great food and the inevitable ‘craic’. For me, Ireland in the winter takes some beating – every icy shower merely provides an excuse to find another cosy bolt hole.
This rugged rock clinging to the very edge of Europe also has some of the best driving roads anywhere within the British Isles. The World Rally Championship acknowledged this by adding the north-west of Ireland as a round during the 2007 season. A lot of the stages took in some of my favourite routes around my ‘second home’, the town of Sligo. Standout routes included a lap of Loch Gill and a final stage finish on the top of the cliffs at Mullaghmore.
Before departing for Ireland, the 5 Series was treated to a refurbished #ZF-steering-rack
, new radiator and – most importantly – a fresh set of Michelin Cross Climates. These top-tier, award-winning wet-weather tyres are designed specifically to grip in all weathers. BMWs of any era aren’t known for their grip in adverse conditions, so I gave Vintage Tyres a call to see what they recommended. Although the Michelins cost £171 each, I reasoned that leaning on the brakes up in the mountains and ploughing straight on could end up costing a lot more.
It was a good call; the fighting-fit 5 Series on these exceptional tyres proved an ideal combination. The pre-dawn run over to Wales to the ferry, driving over the Pennines in torrential rain, instantly reassured me that I’d made the correct choice. On the motorway, these tyres are quiet and smooth, gripping even when the road resembled a river. Once in Ireland, they dealt with the drizzle and mud better than any rubber I’ve ever put on a classic #BMW
. And in the dry, they keep up the astonishing grip without sacrificing noise levels.
THANKS TO… Vintage Tyre Supplies Ltd, Hampshire vintagetyres.com 01590 612261 Stena Line – choice of four routes from the UK to Ireland stenaline.co.uk
Precious metal on the Emerald Isle. Michelins showed off their wet-weather superstardom. Thanks for the advice, but… Sparkle in the rain. About as busy as the beaches ever get in these parts Little margin for error on these roads, so vicelike grip is reassuring. Don't worry, gorgeous – Nathan didn't come on this trip. Wild west hero: 5 Series purred its way around deserted coast roads. The contented look of a man en route to his next Guinness.
BMW 528i E39
Acquired Feb 2017
Costs £684 on tyres
Other cars 1984 VW Scirocco Storm
1987 Lotus Esprit S3
1990 Mercedes 190E 2.6
1990 VW Golf GTI 16v
1992 Range Rover 3.9
1998 Peugeot 306
1999 Alfa Romeo GTV
2000 Mazda MX-5 MKII
‘SOME OF THE BEST DRIVING ROADS IN THE BRITISH ISLES’